Monthly Archives: November 2011
Theodore Roosevelt, that force of nature that was once President of these United States, was a deeply religious man. He attended church faithfully his entire life. (He was Dutch Reformed, but he often attended Episcopal services with his wife.) He opposed putting the national motto “In God We Trust” on currency, for fear it would cheapen the noble sentiment, as would be the case, in his view, if it were used on postage stamps or in advertisements. He was opposed to all religious bigotry as he would state immediately after the campaign of 1908 when the Unitarian Willam Howard Taft came under fire for his religion:
“I did not answer any of these letters during the campaign, because I regarded it as an outrage even to agitate such a question. … To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular Church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any Church, is an outrage against the liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life. … I do not for one moment believe that the mass of our fellow-citizens, or that any considerable number of our fellow citizens, can be influenced by such narrow bigotry as to refuse to vote for any thoroughly upright and fit man because he happens to have a particular religious creed. … I believe that this Republic will endure for many centuries. If so, there will doubtless be among its Presidents Protestants and Catholics, and very probably at some time, Jews. … In my Cabinet at the present moment there sit side by side Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Jew, each man chosen because in my belief he is peculiarly fit to exercise on behalf of all our people the duties of the office. … In no case does a man’s religious belief in any way influence his discharge of his duties, save as it makes him more eager to act justly and uprightly in his relations to all men.”
A frequent reader of the Bible, Roosevelt once opined that a thorough knowledge of it was more valuable to a person than a college education.
His Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1908 rejoices in the material well being of the country, but notes that there is far more to life than piling up material possessions. He would have vigorously dissented from the idiotic bumper sticker: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Here is the text of the Proclamation: Continue reading
Liberal elites frequently profess astonishment at why so many middle class Americans vote Republican. Thomas Frank in 2004 published a book, What’s The Matter With Kansas , in which he bemoaned the fact that his fellow Kansans, or former fellow Kansans I should say since he resides in Washington DC, did not share his love of the Party of the Jackass. Lee Siegel at The Daily Beast has a brilliant column in which he explains the political facts of life to the Liberal elites in the form of a letter from Occupy Harvard to their parents:
The man you think is a “sucker” because he votes for Republican candidates who don’t seem to give a hoot about him will vote for them every time. He looks at you, the crowd of The-Fix-Is-Always-In, and he casts his lot with the crowd of wealth and initiative.
You see, Mom and Dad, they don’t lie about his prospects. They tell him that he has to sink or swim. They don’t disrespect his willpower by promising that government will make life easier for him. They tell him that they respect his individuality. They tell him straight out what you, the liberal elite, know to be true but will never say. They tell him that life in America is winner-take-all, and that they are the people who will let him keep what he has. They tell him that his religion, his wife’s capacity to reproduce, his children—whether they are “successful” or not—are his treasure. They tell him that they don’t care if he is a person of modest ambition, little sophistication, and humble means. What they value is his capacity to change his own life.
What you tell him is that he should put his life in your hands. Yet you scorn his religion. You mock his faith in the sacredness of conception. You deride his belief in family. You tell him that his love for hunting makes him a murderer, and that his terror at being economically displaced makes him a xenophobe and a racist. Then you emasculate his hope for the future by telling him that if his ship comes in—that dream of a ship that makes the grinding disappointment of daily life worth living through—you’ll help yourself to a big slice of it. And you expect him to believe your rhetoric about fairness and equality when, all the while, you are accusing him of gullibility in his politics and bad faith toward the least fortunate of his fellow citizens. When, all the while, you are living untouched by your own policies. When you are cushioned against life’s hardness, not by government, but by simply knowing other people in your class. You expect him to buy your talk about equitable distribution of wealth when you are sailing through tax loopholes off into the sunset. For this man, his emotions make all the rational sense in the world. Continue reading
The lessons are very simple:
1. Higher taxes lead to higher government expenditure and not reduction of government debt.
2. A value added tax is a recipe for run-away government expenditure.
3. A welfare state breeds dependency.
4. Fiscal reform and reduction of government expenditure is impossible once more people are living off the government than are paying taxes to support the government.
5. Bailouts do not work. Continue reading
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI
ON THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE
TO OUR VENERABLE BRETHREN THE PATRIARCHS, PRIMATES,
BISHOPS, AND OTHER ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC
Venerable Brethren, Greeting and the Apostolic
In the first Encyclical Letter which We addressed at
the beginning of Our Pontificate to the Bishops of the universal Church, We
referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was
laboring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due
to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law
out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in
politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to
submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a
lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the
Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power.
In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not
be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the
restoration of the Empire of Our Lord. We were led in the meantime to indulge
the hope of a brighter future at the sight of a more widespread and keener
interest evinced in Christ and his Church, the one Source of Salvation, a sign
that men who had formerly spurned the rule of our Redeemer and had exiled
themselves from his kingdom were preparing, and even hastening, to return to the
duty of obedience.
2. The many notable and memorable events which have
occurred during this Holy Year have given great honor and glory to Our Lord and
King, the Founder of the Church.
3. At the Missionary Exhibition men have been deeply
impressed in seeing the increasing zeal of the Church for the spread of the
kingdom of her Spouse to the most far distant regions of the earth. They have
seen how many countries have been won to the Catholic name through the
unremitting labor and self-sacrifice of missionaries, and the vastness of the
regions which have yet to be subjected to the sweet and saving yoke of our King.
All those who in the course of the Holy Year have thronged to this city under
the leadership of their Bishops or priests had but one aim – namely, to expiate
their sins – and at the tombs of the Apostles and in Our Presence to promise
loyalty to the rule of Christ.
4. A still further light of glory was shed upon his
kingdom, when after due proof of their heroic virtue, We raised to the honors of
the altar six confessors and virgins. It was a great joy, a great consolation,
that filled Our heart when in the majestic basilica of St. Peter Our decree was
acclaimed by an immense multitude with the hymn of thanksgiving, Tu Rex
gloriae Christe. We saw men and nations cut off from God, stirring up strife
and discord and hurrying along the road to ruin and death, while the Church of
God carries on her work of providing food for the spiritual life of men,
nurturing and fostering generation after generation of men and women dedicated
to Christ, faithful and subject to him in his earthly kingdom, called by him to
eternal bliss in the kingdom of heaven.
5. Moreover, since this jubilee Year marks the
sixteenth centenary of the Council of Nicaea, We commanded that event to be
celebrated, and We have done so in the Vatican basilica. There is a special
reason for this in that the Nicene Synod defined and proposed for Catholic
belief the dogma of the Consubstantiality of the Onlybegotten with the Father,
and added to the Creed the words “of whose kingdom there shall be no end,”
thereby affirming the kingly dignity of Christ.
6. Since this Holy Year therefore has provided more
than one opportunity to enhance the glory of the kingdom of Christ, we deem it
in keeping with our Apostolic office to accede to the desire of many of the
Cardinals, Bishops, and faithful, made known to Us both individually and
collectively, by closing this Holy Year with the insertion into the Sacred
Liturgy of a special feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This
matter is so dear to Our heart, Venerable Brethren, that I would wish to address
to you a few words concerning it. It will be for you later to explain in a
manner suited to the understanding of the faithful what We are about to say
concerning the Kingship of Christ, so that the annual feast which We shall
decree may be attended with much fruit and produce beneficial results in the
future. Continue reading
Almighty and merciful God,you break the power of evil and make all things newin your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe.May all in heaven and earthacclaim your glory and never cease to praise you.
Almighty ever-living God,whose will is to restore all thingsin your beloved Son, the King of the universe,grant, we pray,
may render your majesty service
that the whole creation, set free from slavery,and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.
May we, too, be set free from the slavery of a translation that was in desperate need of being cleansed of its iniquities, and may we ceaselessly praise our Lord and Savior, the King of the universe, through this great gift that has been given to us: The New Translation of the Roman Missal.
As a complementary bookend to this last Sunday of the last year of the old translation, I give you the article written, nearly a year ago, on the first Sunday of the last year of the old translation:
I feel like each Sunday this year presents a funeral of sorts … a passing of Mass texts that will never be heard again. Rather than mourning this passing, my heart finds solace in the assurance that these texts will rise again in a more perfect form with the “advent” of the new translation. While we have a full year to pay our respects to the passing Ordinary, there is a rejoicing of sorts that the current Propers have reached the end of the proverbial line: their days are numbered, their time has passed, and blessed be God for that.
Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,hanc tuis fidelibus voluntatem,ut, Christo tuo venienti iustis operibus occurrentes,eius dextrae sociati, regnum mereantur possidere caeleste.
All-powerful God,increase our strength of will for doing goodthat Christ may find an eager welcome at his comingand call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven.
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,the resolve to run forth to meet your Christwith righteous deeds at his coming,so that, gathered at his right hand,they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
We live in an age where scoffing at religion and believers in God is all the rage. In some ways the Eighteenth Century was like this time period. In the Age of Enlightenment much of elite Western European opinion mocked Christianity and some openly embraced atheism. It was considered witty and daring and fun by the cultural avant garde. It seemed much less humorous at the tail end of the century when the French Revolutionary regime for a time persecuted Christians and slaughtered them for their faith. This type of hostility was much less in evidence in Eighteenth Century America. Even those, for example Thomas Jefferson, who had doubts about the divinity of Christ, praised His teachings and had no doubt as to the existence of God.
George Washington, the commanding American figure of his day, was a very conventional Christian. He attended church regularly, said his prayers and read his Bible. His faith was as much a part of him as his love of his wife, his love of Mount Vernon and his ability to lead men through sufferings in the War of Independence that most of us today would find simply unimaginable. Pious without being sanctimonious, Washington had no doubt that the fate of America in the Revolution was firmly in the hands of God.
We see this belief in the General Order he issued to the Continental Army on March 6, 1776:
Thursday the seventh Instant, being set apart by the Honorable the Legislature of this province, as a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation, “to implore the Lord, and Giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness’s, and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favour and protection”—All Officers, and Soldiers, are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverance, and attention on that day, to the sacred duties due to the Lord of hosts, for his mercies already received, and for those blessings, which our Holiness and Uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through his mercy to obtain. Continue reading
Johnny Cash in the above video does a superb job of reading the Gettysburg Address. Go here to read my analysis of the Gettysburg Address. Winston Churchill, certainly the greatest orator of the English language in the last century, deemed the Address, “The ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.” Lincoln’s masterpiece of concision packed with thought will endure as long as our American republic does, and the truths it contains will endure far beyond that time period. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings performed with brass instruments. It makes a fit accompaniment to the above video which reminds us of the veterans who ensured that we enjoy the freedom next Thursday to give thanks to God for that freedom and all the other blessings He has showered upon us in this land. May we be worthy of their sacrifice.
On November 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis issued a report to the Confederate Congress on the progress of the War. It is a fascinating document. It details how he perceived the War at this early stage. Here is the text of the report, interspersed with comments by me:
Richmond November 18th 1861
The few weeks which have elapsed since your adjournment have brought us so near the close of the year that we are now able to sum up its general results. The retrospect is such as should fill the hearts of our people with gratitude to Providence for His kind interposition in their behalf. Abundant yields have rewarded the labor of the agriculturist, whilst the manufacturing industry of the Confederate States was never so prosperous as now. The necessities of the times have called into existence new branches of manufactures, and given a fresh impulse to the activity of those heretofore in operation. The means of the Confederate States for manufacturing the necessaries and comforts of life within themselves increase as the conflict continues, and we are gradually becoming independent of the rest of the world for the supply of such military stores and munitions as are indispensable for war. The operations of the army soon to be partially interrupted by the approaching winter have afforded a protection to the country, and shed a lustre upon its arms through the trying vicissitudes of more than one arduous campaign, which entitle our brave volunteers to our praise and our gratitude.
The Confederacy would expand its industrial plant enormously during the War, but it could never compete with the industrial might of the Union. The crop of 1861 was indeed bountiful, and it did small good for the Confederacy since Davis had decided on an informal cotton embargo which it was assumed would convince Great Britain to recognize the Confederacy since the British textile industry relied upon cotton from the South. It was a ghastly mistake. With the Union blockade in its infancy, most of the cotton crop of 1861 could have been shipped to Europe and earned much-needed hard currency for the purchase of badly needed supplies and weapons. Instead, what cotton was not used for domestic purposes in the Confederacy in 1861, simply sat in warehouses and on docks. This policy was one of the main blunders of the Davis administration in 1861. Continue reading
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Isabella Minoru. Continue reading
Edmund Burke is the political thinker most central to shaping my own political views. Regarded as the founder of modern conservatism, Burke was an odd mixture of idealistic philosopher and practical politician. Although he presents his ideas in luminous prose, he has often been caricatured as a mere reactionary. Nothing could be further from the truth. Burke realized that societies change all the time, just as individuals change as they proceed through life. How the change occurred in the political realm was to Burke of the greatest moment.
Rather than a reactionary, Burke was actually a reformer, fighting against abuses in his time, for example the penal laws which treated Irish Catholics as helots in their own land, and English Catholics as foreigners in theirs’. When the colonists in America carried on a decade long struggle against the colonial policies of the government of George III before rising in revolt, Burke ever spoke on their behalf in a hostile Parliament, and defended his stance before a hostile electorate. He prosecuted the first British Governor General of India, Warren Hastings, for crimes committed against the native population.
One of the things that has always struck me about Burke is his consistency, whether defending the rights of Irish and English Catholics, of the American colonists, of the Indians under British rule or attacking the tyranny of the French revolutionaries. He was always against arbitrary power and held that government could not simply uproot societies. Continue reading
With the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal just around the corner, Crisis magazine reprinted its 2000 article “Worship Gone Awry.” Its author, Maureen Mullarkey, advanced some excellent arguments about some problems with the Ordinary Form of the Mass (OF), many of which that only became increasingly obvious as the decades of the 1970′s, 80′s, and ’90s unfolded.
But, does that mean the OF is as bad as Ms. Mullarkey indicates? More importantly, should the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (EF) be made more readily available, as Ms. Mullarkey seems to be implying?
On both counts, The Motley Monk thinks the answer is a resounding “No” if only because Joseph Jungmann’s concept of the “developmental nature of the liturgy” cannot be so easily dismissed. As the Lutheran theologian, Jaroslav Pelikan, noted one generation ago: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
History teaches that what is now the EF developed out of multiple strands constituting a “tradition” of worship, introducing “reforms” to that tradition. In contemporary language, to make that tradition meaningful—daresay I, “relevant”—in a new era.
The development of medieval Masses and, finally, of the Tridentine Mass also represents a reflection on the part of pastors and theologians in terms of what was not working right in the Mass. While it is true that the patristic Mass in the West resembled more of the OF than the EF, great Church Fathers like Augustine inherited a form of the Mass from an earlier time (St. Cyprian of Carthage) in which sacramental theology, especially in terms of the concept of mystery, was not as developed as it was by Augustine’s time. In this way, Augustine and other Church Fathers from the 5th century onward provided the sources for a later medieval rethinking of liturgy. So, it’s not the form of the Mass that, say, an Augustine said, that indicates what he really thought, but the deeper sacramental theology in his writings which then influences later medieval developments. In that sense medieval/Tridentine liturgy was a correction and, perhaps arguably at the time, an improvement over the patristic liturgies.
The same is true of the OF. It also developed out of a very longstanding tradition of worship, introducing its own “reforms” that hearkened back to the pre-patristic era, “leapfrogging” backwards over the EF’s reforms of the patristic era’s form of authentic worship.
That said, in its intent and design OF may very well have erred in the direction of allowing worship to be made so meaningful—daresay I, “relevant”—that it becomes banal. And, there certainly is much to support that assertion. But, that is to overlook the fact that Ms. Mullarkey has emphasized only one side of that history by seizing, as she has, upon post-Vatican II excesses. That does not mean, ipso facto, that the OF is errant. After all, the same observation can be made about the EF. Its attention to the details of historical artifacts—the stuff of maniples, burses, Gothic vestments, birettas, precious metals—can err in the direction of emphasizing what was relevant in previous generations so that that it errs in the direction of being irrelevant in this generation.
There are some real problems with the OF Ms. Mullarkey didn’t mention in her article, but likely would agree with. These include, but are not limited to:
- The OF can be celebrated in a prayerful and dignified way. But, “ad populum” Mass can be problematic in that the celebrant inevitably is reduced to the role of “Entertainer-in-Chief,” even if he keeps his eyes focused upon the altar and not upon the congregation. Like it or not, the OF encourages people in the congregation to vote implicitly concerning how they “feel” about a particular celebrant’s “style.” Not only does that verge on Donatism, but it also focuses worship on the person of the ordained minister not the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ through whom God is authentically worshipped.
- The OF totally and irrevocably erases the “apophatic elements” that are present—even if they are over-emphasized—in the EF. “Tossing out the baby with the bathwater” may represent a very great loss, one that is known only in retrospect. After all, authentic worship in any form should “raise up” the congregation’s spiritual sensibilities to the ineffable, not drag them down into the banal. Clowns, puppets, and vestal virgins prancing around bearing incense buckets, and priests bedecked in vestments decorated with disco-glitter only encourage the latter.
- In the OF, there is an over emphasis upon Word. In reality, there are four readings each Sunday if the Responsorial Psalm is counted. In many instances, the Epistle also has absolutely no connection to the first reading, the gospel, and the “bridge” of the psalm. And that’s to say nothing about the fact that the celebrant’s prayers are entirely disconnected from the “theme” presented in the readings. For a sacramental ritual that is supposed to reflect the “best” in that its principles dignify worship of God, this error alone seems egregious.
The OF appeals to children and adults who need to be kept busy and entertained because they are easily bored. However, those who designed the OF appear not to have know or did not realize that the threshold for boredom lowers as people get accustomed to the little gestures and words that they perform, so that even the participation in the Mass signalled in the Missal inevitably becomes boring. The OF has fallen into the trap of trying to ward off boredom throughout the Mass by getting the congregation “involved.” But, even that becomes “boring” and can only be reversed if there is continuous change in the liturgy. So, liturgists keep inventing new gimmicks and tricks for people to perform and remain actively engaged during the Holy Mass. Even that term, “Holy Mass,” seems somehow unrelated to the OF.
The EF requires mental concentration if one’s worship to get absorbed in it in a way that makes what one does a form of engaged participation. This is not singing. Nor is it gesturing. It is being actively engaged with one’s mind (and hopefully, too, one’s heart). In contrast, participation in the OF has come to mean “everybody does everything.” And even where that is not yet the case, there is a built in inevitability of people thinking that they are being excluded if there is something the priest does that they can’t do. This may be the most damning criticism of the OF: it breeds a form of egalitarianism that has very little, if nothing to do with Roman Catholic hierarchalism and everything to do with post-Enlightenment individualism.
More likely than not, both the EF and OF err in the direction of crafting idols out of their definitions of “relevance” so that authentic worship today becomes an more of an afterthought rather than a guiding principle.
For what it’s worth, the new translation of the Roman Missal, celebrated/prayed/said (whatever word is appropriate these days) will go a long way in correcting the excesses in terms of relevance.
Let the discussion begin…
To read Maureen Mullarkey’s article in Crisis, click on the following link: